((When I joined Stormwind University, I kind of needed a First-Day-of-School story for Sangnoir. The story I came up with didn’t fit the April prompt, but does get the characters established - it takes place about 2 weeks before the April-prompt story.))
The Honorable Miss Ayla Crenshall was the first student Sangnoir met at Stormwind University. He was unpacking books in his new office at the time: more books than he'd ever been able to shelve in the various rooms he had rented or borrowed over the years, but they filled less than half of one of the long shelves built into the walls. The rest of the shelves would work well for the artifacts and bits-of-artifacts he'd dug up or inherited over the years. He'd finally be able to get that mogu stuff out of storage.
He looked up when he saw movement at the doorway. A tall girl, dressed in black lace, slouched against the door-frame and gazed at him with half-lidded eyes. She was wearing too much make-up to be in mourning, Sangnoir thought.
“You're the new prof?” she asked.
“Yes, I'll be teaching 'Introduction to Archaeology' starting this Tuesday. I'm Arstan Sangnoir.” Sangnoir wondered about the etiquette of introductions to university students, but walked towards the doorway and extended his hand to shake hers. It must have been the wrong thing to do, because she tittered and took a step backwards.
“Not a class on fel magic? Are you taking apprentices?” She opened her eyes all the way and tilted her head back.
Sangnoir stifled a sigh. Not in front of the students. “No, definitely not. Professor Sympinke teaches a class on what warlocks do. I teach archaeology.” Professor Flinthammer thought him qualified, and he couldn't let the old man down.
“Professor Sympinke won't let me into her class. Isn't archaeology, you know, about dark secrets and forgotten powers?” The girl lowered her unnaturally heavy lashes again, but kept looking up at him.
“No.” Archaeology usually wasn't, not for most people, most of the time, certainly not the stuff he was going to teach on Tuesday. But it was hard to forget the mad joy on Erk Runebrand's face when they'd found that box in the terrible temple in the ruins of the Nerubian tunnels, and later, when they figured out how to open the box. Erk had still been smiling as the shadows inside had boiled out and consumed him. “Definitely not.”
The girl scowled. “I know who you are. I've seen you in the Slaughtered Lamb.”
Ahh, so she was one of the tourists who paid to drink in the bar's public saloon. The bartenders kept them out of the private rooms and the cellars. Sangnoir had shouldered through these crowds more times than he could count in order to deal with the dark secrets and forgotten powers that were the Slaughtered Lamb's real business.
“So does the Dean, and the Provost, and most of Stormwind. They all know who I am. I sent them a copy of my military records with my CV. Had to, to claim veteran status. I can answer any questions you have about my archaeology class, but I don't teach magic of any sort.” Sangnoir folded his arms and leaned back against his desk.
The girl's scowl deepened into a glare. “Guess I'll see you Tuesday then.”
True to her word, the girl was in class on Tuesday, in the middle of a cluster of giggling, whispering young ladies. At least half of them were all in black, but bedecked with silver jewelry and caked with make-up. They had settled in the back of the room, at least a couple of rows away from the other students. Sangnoir focused on the students in the front of the classroom, the ones whose eyes lit up when he passed around shards of a Pandaren tea cup that was over five thousand years old. These were the ones who handled the fragments carefully, and who gingerly attempted to fit them together to see the pattern that had been painted on cup when it was whole. Ayla and her friends ignored the relics when they were left on a desk in the fifth row and continued their conversation. Even the front-row students were less enthused about the corroded lump that had been an ancient mogu coin until Sangnoir told them iron coins minted by the mogu emperors had been more valuable than gold ones because no one had dared to counterfeit them. But none of the students pulled out their notebooks until he mentioned that the principles of stratigraphy would be on the first exam.
Ayla was the only student who came to office hours afterwards. “You're serious!” she grumbled. “Your class really is all about rust and pottery.”
“There's a lot you can learn from rust and pottery,” Sangnoir pointed out mildly. “The mogu put dates on their coins, and everyone used them, except the mantid. Everyone had to. So modern archaeologists know exactly how old most Pandarian relics are, based on the coins that are found with them.”
“Who cares? How do people learn how to be warlocks?” demanded Ayla.
“It's easy,” Sangnoir snapped. “You just watch your home get burned to the ground by monsters from another world and flee across mountains and deserts to escape them. Once you think you've found safety, the monsters catch up to you, kill the people who offered you shelter and protection, then they raise those people from the dead to keep hunting you down. That's when you learn the monsters' magic, because you have to fight back somehow-” He shut up at that point. That probably wasn't what the Dean meant about being honest with the students. That was probably too much.
It really wasn't enough. Ayla pouted. “Magda Honeythorpe is a real warlock, and she'll teach me.”
“Then stay away from her,” Sangnoir advised.
According to the roster, Magda Honeythorpe had been one of the girls who had been sitting with Ayla in class. Sangnoir looked down and noticed that the bottom drawer in the left-hand filing cabinet was open, just a crack. He hadn't had time to start moving files, and those drawers had all been closed. Quickly, quietly, he moved back to it, and flung it open. The imp huddled in the drawer jumped out with a screech. Sangnoir caught it by the scruff of its neck. He'd had many years of practice at this.
“Jubham! There's a reason I don't summon you when I don't need you! Lots of reasons, actually.”
“Hey! Hey! It's all copacetic!” the imp protested. “I'm a battle pet these days! At least, that's what Lady Asham thinks. It's great! She's got a house full of candy dishes, and they're always full. And I can still hear you when you summon me. In fact, I can't not hear you!”
That meant that the binding still held, but it wasn't enough to keep the imp from manifesting on its own. That could get dangerous in all kinds of ways. Sangnoir maintained his grip on back of the imp's neck, letting it dangle and squirm. “Fine. It sounds like I need to keep you busy. You're going to go check on this Miss Honeythorpe, and follow her until tomorrow noon. If she's either got any power of her own, or if she's linked to anyone or anything powerful, you'll let me know. Stay phase-shifted, and if you're seen or sensed, get back here.”
“Is that her true name? You gonna do a scrying ritual or-”
“Or just look up whether she's staying in the dormitories? I doubt she's performing lots of dark rituals if she's living at home with her parents.” According to the directory on Sangnoir's desk, Magda Honeythorpe lived across the Old Quad from Ayla Crenshall, two buildings down from the History and Ancient Languages building.
Jubham wailed about working conditions, oppression, and the outrageous cruelty and greed of warlocks before he left. A few minutes later, he reported, using a commstone, that there was tangible fel taint on several of Magda's possessions. “Not properly cleansed at all. She's an amateur!” he scoffed. Sangnoir told him to stay and keep watching. An hour later, Ayla arrived in Magda's rooms, and Jubham told Sangnoir, “They've arranged to meet in the ruins of the old City Barracks half an hour before midnight. Done, right? I can go back now?”
“No, keep following Magda. I'll see you shortly after eleven.” There was no point going back to his apartment to sleep, so Sangnoir went back to work on his lecture outline for Thursday.
Sangnoir planned to set off for the old Barracks himself at about half past ten, to wait for the girls to arrive there before he confronted them, but like any reasonable plan, it didn't work out. He got a panicked call from Jubham not long after full dark. “Change of plans, boss! Magda ran into Ayla at the bar, then talked her into doing the ceremony a little early. Magda must have dropped something in her drink, because Ayla's acting pretty goofy. Wait a minute-” There was a shriek from the commstone. Sangnoir grabbed his staff and ran towards the old Park District. I should have gone after her earlier, he thought, the minute Jubham warned me about that taint. Sure, she could have denied it, without proof of what she's doing – I shouldn't have taken the risk.
Jubham was fine, of course, and hopping around near a now-roofless tower, pointing at the doorway. The damage was all on the inside of the tower. At least two of the inner floors had collapsed, but a stairway had been re-built to the top floor out of rubble. It didn't look stable, but Sangnoir could hear a girl's thin voice chanting from high above him. He scrambled up the rickety stairs, careful not to look over the edge. Jubham bounded after him. The chanting stopped in mid-verse as Sangnoir reached the last stretch, a makeshift ladder from the staircase through a hole in the ceiling.
“No,” screamed the girl's voice. “No, not me!” The ladder had been a handrail for a real staircase at some point, and it was held at in place by frayed, rusty cables bolted to the outer wall of the the tower. Sangnoir slid the staff through his belt, across his back, and clawed his way up and across it. The room at the top of the tower was open to the sky. One of the girls from Tuesday's class, presumably Magda, stood at the far end from Sangnoir, fending off a felhunter with a torch. She was a petite girl with long blonde hair and unfreckled pale skin. Black didn't suit her at all. “Get back!” she shrieked at the felhunter, or maybe at Sangnoir. There were runes drawn in chalk on the dirty floor, many of them nonsense, but the rest would have been just enough for a major summoning. Ayla was behind her, lying on a bench. She had been tied to it and gagged.
Sangnoir pulled his staff free as he walked towards the felhunter and its prey and spoke the words of banishing. The felhunter grew translucent. The blonde girl, Magda, jabbed it once more with her torch, then drew a knife with her free hand. “Don't come any closer!” she shouted at Sangnoir, “Or I'll... I'll cut her.” She brandished the knife at Ayla, who struggled and squealed through her gag. Jubham singed Magda's her with a fireball. She jerked her hand out of the way, but Sangnoir knocked the knife away with his staff. She yelped and dived for the fallen knife, but he struck her on the shoulder, knocking her down. Jubham grabbed the knife and bounced away towards the ladder.
Magda brandished her torch at Sangnoir, but he used his staff to push her away from Ayla, more by threat than by actual contact. “Jubham, get back here, and cut Miss Crenshall free,” he ordered, not taking his eyes off of Magda.
“I'll tell the Dean what you did,” Magda threatened.
“That I stopped you from feeding your classmate to the creature you've just summoned? I think it found you tastier than it did her.” Sangnoir nodded at the sucker-marks on her bare arms.
“I'll tell her that you tried to sacrifice us both. Ayla will back me up, if she knows what's good for her. Or I'll tell her parents what she's been doing.” Magda said, her high, sweet voice horribly at odds with the rage in her blue eyes.
Sangnoir recited the banishing formula again when the outline of the felhunter grew more distinct than he liked. “Or I could just release this thing and let it finish what it started?” he suggested.
“You are so dead, Magda Honeythorpe! You tell my dad anything you want; he's not gonna believe a butcher's daughter from Old Town!” Ayla snarled from behind Sangnoir. She had finally gotten the gag off.
Magda's eyes filled with tears. She turned and ran for the ladder with her torch, leaving the others in the darkness until Jubham conjured a tiny ball of flame. Sangnoir bit his lip to keep himself from shouting after Magda to be careful on that wreck of a staircase, then turned to help finish freeing Ayla.
“We are going to have to talk to the Dean about this,” he warned her.
She shrugged. “Whatever.”
Magda did not return to the University, and Ayla did not drop “Introduction to Archaeology” when most of her friends did. To Sangnoir's greater surprise, Ayla signed up to lead a project group on the night elves. When she stopped by his office to turn in the outline for the project, he asked, “Does this topic really interest you?”
Ayla shrugged. “It's not so bad. Queen Azshara's kind of interesting. She was so beautiful, and her people really loved her. And it was so tragic, the way she was betrayed!”
Sangnoir waited until Ayla wandered off to shake his head and sigh. Some things the students were just going to have to learn for themselves.